Former England captain Tony Greig, for monetary reasons, masterminded the exodus to the rebel Packer World Series in 1977. He was England captain, no less, but Packer bought him. That stain won’t go. So when Greig spews sanctimony on the Indian cricket board (BCCI) and says its domination of world cricket must end, he’s met with ridicule. “He’s saying this because the BCCI didn’t admit him in the IPL commentary team for signing up with the rebel ICL,” says a BCCI official.
The BCCI uses the bait of money to lure the best players away from their domestic tournaments to the IPL. But it doesn’t allow its own cricketers to forego domestic tournaments and play T20 abroad. There’s resentment that it’s undermining world cricket, just what Packer’s World Series did some 30 years ago.
Packer, a businessman, was in it for the money; BCCI is supposed to be a non-profit society. “Yet it’s dominated by corporate interests, and has handed its players to private parties, who are interested in only what they can earn through them—the way Sehwag and Gambhir were made to play through the IPL despite injuries shows this,” says a former cricketer.
“Things change, some cycles take longer. If India’s hold turns in on them and backfires, it would be its own fault.”David Frith, Cricket historian Dawn columnist Kamran Abbasi says, “Packer was an outsider, the BCCI is at the helm of the ICC, hence its enterprise is deemed to be official.” Abbasi says that even if one takes an India-centric view, one should appreciate that it is better for Indian cricket to flourish in a flourishing world game, “rather than flourishing in a world game that is falling apart”.
But is world cricket falling apart? For a “world” sport, it has too few competitive countries—six, perhaps. The most prestigious format, Test cricket, is losing crowds. The shortest and most trivial format, T20, is burgeoning. Invented in England, this bonsai version has IPL and Australia’s Big Bash, and now the Sri Lanka Premier League is being set up.
Tony Irish, CEO of the South African Cricketers Association, says while the IPL has created many positives, it’s a big threat to international cricket. “Other countries are forced to allow the export of their best players for use by the IPL as it pays players so much,” he says. “But they (boards) benefit very little and have little say in how it is strategically positioned in the cricket landscape. Other countries have little option but to replicate ‘mini IPLs’. This is leading to an unstructured mushrooming of T20 leagues.”
But what’s the ICC doing about this? Nothing, for BCCI is the ICC. Asked if the BCCI is manipulating smaller boards, Arjuna Ranatunga, former Sri Lanka captain, says, “My answer is: Is the ICC full of puppets? Cricket is ultimately not about IPLs or SLPLS, is it?” He says the ICC is a “toothless tiger” that is increasingly allowing “money and entertainment” to drive cricket. “IPL is all about money...big money. The ICC is supposed to protect the game but it is pushing it in the hands of people who are not the real custodians of the game but simply have the money to spend,” Ranatunga told Outlook.
India wields power because it represents some 70 per cent of ICC’s revenues, making it difficult to introduce genuine independence on the ICC’s executive board. “Appointment of independent directors would help.... The BCCI dominates and many decisions are skewed towards what is in the best interests of Indian cricket rather than world cricket. And there’s advantage if you support India, so it becomes political,” said Irish.
David Frith, cricket historian and columnist, says the situation is fluid. “All things change, though some cycles take longer than others. If India’s dominance is to turn in on them and backfire it would be its own fault (vide the Roman Empire),” Frith says. “There have been secret plans in the past for splits in world cricket. Such a sad event could still come to pass.” For now, players are understandably chasing big money. Says Frith, “With Packer it was justifiable, for they were paid peanuts for representing their country. That’s not the case now. The pay packets on offer in the IPL remain tempting, but the nature of the cricket doesn’t.”
India has a chance to show admirable leadership from its power base, Frith and Abbasi hope: “Mess it up and there will be worldwide derision and resentment”. If Indian cricket looks at the mirror held up by foreign cricket lovers, it won’t see a pleasing image. Whether it cares about that is another matter.
By Rohit Mahajan in New Delhi and Satarupa Bhattacharjya in Colombo
C.K. Subramaniam, Mumbai
It’s a wonder why there is so much clamour over the BCCI’s dominance in the ICC. The situation was similar to this for decades—prior to 1992, the English and Australian cricket boards dominated world cricket, and they didn’t have any qualms about that. The white men of the cricketing world cannot tolerate Indian dominance of a game that is so much a part of their national cultures. India’s Test rankings and other successes further add to their displeasure.
Tamanash Biswas, Calcutta
The only way I think the game might be saved from its current raucous, raunchy, lurid phase if enough fans of the game’s more pristine forms say enough is enough and move on to other games.
Narendra Apte, Pune
‘Club over country’ is surely something new for cricket. But you can see it in many other spectator sports. Most top tennis players give the Davis Cup a slip. And soccer players often give priority to their clubs, which spend so much money on them.
D.L. Narayan, Visakhapatnam
What a pathetic article. A shame such a piece appears in one of the premeier magazine.
Completely misses the target and sprays everywhere which could be summarized in few words.."BCCI generates revenue AND popularizes cricket by making it a more adrenaline fuelled activity, we don't do anything to do either ...... aah, but we can criticize it, malign it, demonize it and prey on indian sense of hurt self-pride (And O, cricket needs no adrenaline, just nationalistic/friday jumma jingoism, chamomile tea and indispensibly needs potbellies)". Whiners cannot be experts, please give us a break.
1) BCCI, through the IPL has produced the ONLY way to spread the game globally by competing with soccer, (even my fellow Italian colleague can identify with the adrenaline flow) and promote cultural bonhomie - here merit is the only criterion..not provincialism or reverse rascism or petty bureaucratic politics. (Except of course if you are from a terror exporting country its better to focus on nation building than playing IPL for everything and everybody's sake or you can change citizenship and become part of the liberal world)
2) IPL doesn't run a conscription drive. Its voluntary, not mandatory. Do not misguide others by spreading lies like Sanga and Mahela was forced to put of national ties due to "IPL duty", not even metaphorically. IPL is simply a far superior preparation compared to university cricket teams and thrashing minnows.
3) If T20 is such an abomination why was it conceived in UK at all. Mmm, gee it seems BCCI is stealing our idea and generating more revenue, Mommy I don't want to play T20 anymore.
4) BCCI has misused its power vis-a-vis the Harbhajan/Symmonds racial row and Zimbabwe/Mugabe crisis.
5) BCCI has muscled its way out of UDRS while rest of the world agreed (but again why just 3 chances, if you want more technology why not arbitrary number, anyways we have 5 DAYS time).
6) BCCI shot down an aussie ex-politician from being ICC prez...Well lets ask Arjuna and Abbassi about that.
7) Nationalism and avarice on filthy display when you force a national team to play in a place imploding from terror and get them almost killed or when you beat a minnow in a packed national stadium for collective ego boost.
Cricket has become a business of entertainment. Let us accept this fact. BCCI has a complete monopoly of this business of cricket in India. But one hope is that whatever good or bad would happen to the great game of cricket will be partly decided by game's fans. If and when they move away to other games, things may improve. But the question is where will they go any way? What efforts are making as a society to promote other games?
It is usual to blame cricket 'mania', but the truth is that no other game attracts crowds as much as cricket. Therefore it is the duty of BCCI to encourage new players to play cricket seriously and not like a TV game. BCCI has also to contribute for enhancement of fitness standards of players who are prone to injuries.
It's a wonder why there is so much clamour on BCCI's dominance in ICC. The situation was similar prior to 1992 with the only difference that there were the English and the Australian Cricket boards instead of The BCCI.
The Englishmen just cannot tolerate the Indian domimance in the sport that they claim to have originated from their land and Tony's comment is an evidence of that. India's Test rankings further adds to their displeasure.
Afterall the T-20 cricket that they blame as one of the major reasons(Of course IPL is in the list) for pushing the longest version of the game towards extinction has originated from england itself.
Since Cricket is not as widespread as it should have been, so remaining clung to a particular format won't help the cause. Hence IPL is a welcome step.
Club over country maybe something new for cricket, but you can see it most spectator sports. Most of the top tennis players give the Davis Cup a pass and concentrate on playing in tournaments. Soccer players give priority to their clubs.
In some sports, there are no national teams. Formula One racing for example.
Altruism is dead. One cannot live on ideals alone. A sportsperson's career is short and is plagued by injuries and uncertainities. S/He has to make hay while the sun shines.
Why these double standards? When the brightest of our young professionals are snatched away by the MNC's from our business schools or when our Doctors and IIT alumni seek greener pastures abroad, nobody accuses them of betraying the country for money. We should give our sportspersons too that right to determine their own future.
Why does every one blames BCCI for everything. BCCI does not asks anyone to come and play in the IPL by pointing a gun at them. It is totally players choice...if they want to play welcome and if not no issues.
BCCI thought of a league, planned it and made it successful. Players palying in the IPL realised the potential of IPL and agreed to play.
No other board has done half of what IPL has achieved
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